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(Part 57)


November 17, 2013
Today’s reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

In today’s reading, Paul gives instruction on some aspects of servant leadership.

First, the servant leader is one who works hard. “On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you.” (v.8b).

  • True servant leadership is hard work. Many times he will be tired, disappointed, frustrated. At times he might even want to give up, considering it a thankless task. It of course is not a thankless task, since we actually serve the Lord, who is never outdone in generosity. We just need to endure and persevere, grateful for the privilege to serve God’s people, and considering any suffering as salvific.
  • The servant leader bears the burden for those whom he serves. He carries his people in his heart. He empathizes with their struggles and pain. Since he is there to serve and not to be served, then he does not become a burden to those whom he serves. He is not autocratic or abusive of his authority.
  • Servant leadership is not an 8-5 job. It is a “24-hour job.” While subordinates should be taught how to be considerate of the time and energy of their leaders, a true servant leader is one who is on call, responding to the reasonable needs of his subordinates .... night and day.

Second, the servant leader works quietly and minds his own business. “Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” (v.12).

  • He is not showy. He does not do things for show or for applause. He does not work such that people know how hard he is working. He just quietly gives of himself, not counting the cost. If he is not acknowledged for the hard work he does, he even rejoices in that, so that his reward is only in heaven.
  • He minds his own business, which is the Lord’s business. He does not interfere in the work of other leaders, or compare his work to theirs, or try to outdo others. He simply gives it his best effort, offering his talents to the Lord, and humbly recognizing his own shortcomings.

Third, the servant leader does not stand on his position or on perks of that position. “Not that we do not have the right.” (v.9a).

  • The term “servant leadership” is an oxymoron. One is a leader but is a servant. One is first but puts himself last. One is the greatest but considers himself the least, being the servant of all. One could be proud of his accomplishments, but only says humbly that he is an unprofitable servant, having done only his duty.
  • He does not stand on his rights as a leader, on his authority, power and perks, that normally come with the position. While he does make use of these in the course of his service, he uses them not as the world does, but as Jesus does, only in humble service to others.

Fourth, the servant leader does not act in a disorderly way. “For we did not act in a disorderly way among you” (v.7b). “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.” (v.11). How might a servant leader act in a disorderly way?

  • By not keeping busy, that is, by not going about the work for which he has been appointed as leader. A leader works, among other things, at peace and unity in the body. He tries to settle disputes. He confronts disruptive dissent. He guides. He instructs. If he does not do these things diligently, then ultimately there will be disorder in the body.
  • By minding the business of others, that is, rather than his own business or assigned tasks. This is when he becomes a busybody, or a know-it-all, or a self-appointed counselor, or a misinformed critic.
  • By taking up his problems or difference with other leaders with those who have no business being engaged in such discussions, such as his subordinates. Presenting only his side and his biases, he turns his subordinates against the leaders he maligns or speaks against.
  • By campaigning to get other leaders to his side when he has a dispute with another leader. This is a behind-the-scenes campaign, often in whispers. Pretty soon there are already opposing factions in the body.
  • By being a gossip (a Christian murderer according to Pope Francis).

Fifth, the servant leader does not abuse the kindness of brethren. “Nor did we eat food received free from anyone.” (v.8a).

  • People often look up to or admire their good leaders, wanting to do them favors or give them gifts. While such can be received with gratitude, a servant leader must be very prudent and must not abuse brethren’s hospitality, generosity or goodwill.
  • He does not use his position to gain personal financial or political advantage.

Sixth, the servant leader works and serves and is not there just be served. “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” (v.10).

  • While there are perks such as seats of honor, being first in line for the buffet, being recognized in an assembly, etc., the servant leader should try not to stand on those privileges (though if the brethren insist, then one can also humbly accept). The servant leader is one who takes the lowest place.
  • The servant leader is not one who continues with a position while disagreeing, openly or secretly, with the directions of the leaders over him or of the community. He does not undermine the mission of the community by his dissent. He does not just decide to go his own way. If something troubles him, he takes that up with the proper authorities, with respect and in good order.

Seventh, the servant leader confidently presents himself as a model. “For you know how one must imitate us.” (v.7a).

  • A servant leader of course points people to Christ and not to himself. But some times it is necessary to point to oneself, so people can concretely see and hear how a Christian should act or speak. Even Paul told the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitates Christ.
  • Before one can confidently present himself as a model, he must then first be walking solidly on the path of holiness and Christian virtues.
  • While he does not trumpet his “greatness,” he must be able to tell people that indeed he is one who walks his talk. He of course is not perfect, and can openly tell people that he himself is a sinner who struggles with fully living out the ways of Christ. But still, he can confidently tell people that he is on the right path, the path he wants to take others to.

The servant leader serves not just by what he says or teaches, but most especially by how he acts and lives out his life and service. Again, while we are not perfect, we know that we have become true servant leaders when we can tell our people, “we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” (v.9b). The servant leader knows he is striving to imitate Jesus, he knows he is a leader who serves, he knows he is leading his people as Jesus would have, he knows he can humbly stand before the Lord and be commended by him. If so, then he can now present himself as a model to be imitated.

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